OTEP SHAMAYA: 'Where We Are Now Politically Is We're Actually Fighting Fascism In America'
August 20, 2023
In a new interview with Heavy New YorkHeavy New York, OTEP frontwoman Otep Shamaya, who is also known as an outspoken advocate of gay rights, poet, illustrator, author and activist, talked about her approach to writing lyrics and having her songs occasionally misinterpreted by people from the opposite side of the political spectrum. She said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I do my best to write with universal language. I know that what truth I'm trying to convey or what emotional experience I'm trying to write about, and sometimes it's multiple things all in this big alchemical stew that it may start off with one idea in the same verse and it switches to several other different things. But I try to do as the beat poets did — use a lot of universal language — and so that people that might not understand or have never had the experience that inspired me to write the song, they can find their own experiences in it and their own meanings to it. Sometimes it can be a disaster. There are people that are on the other side of things politically or culturally than I am, and they'll think that I was writing about something completely different than what I stand for or what I believe in as a human being. So that's really the only danger, is when someone's, like, 'Wait, you write political songs? And you're a liberal?' Yeah. I mean, I'm working class… I'm always gonna represent the working class, and I am a liberal, and I'm gay and I'm a vegan. And so sometimes when those things are discovered and people will be, like, 'Wait, but you wrote 'Smash The Control Machine'? But you're pro this politician or you're pro this legislation.' It's, like, first of all, that was inspired by a William Burroughs poem… I think they ascribe that as to me being an anarchist or something like that. And it's, like, no. The control machine, that song starts off writing about something that happened to my family personally — an elder in my family was being evicted, and so I wanted to write about that. And then I wanted to write about other things as well about the different types of control machines, which is what William Burroughs was referring to, that control us as a population and that are used to control us as a population, economically, culturally, socially and those types of things. So it wasn't just about standing up against the government; it was about making sure that it was about addressing a bunch of different issues. That, I guess, would be the only danger, really, and it rarely happens. But that would be the only real danger in people misinterpreting a song."
Otep, who has never held back on her rage against the wrongs of society, in her music or her social media, went on to say that she doesn't care about appealing voters who currently align with the Republican Party, which she feels is being controlled by extremists.
"For me, I draw a very, very — I mean, it's not even a line; I've dug a canyon between my side and whatever red means now," she explained. "I miss the days of John McCain Republicans where I could disagree with someone all day, but we could still respect each other. Where we are now politically is we're actually fighting fascism in America. And this isn't the first time. I mean, it's not the first time that it's tried to rear its ugly head. In fact, things have gotten better. We're just not gonna let them regress to back to those times. And that's why I think — I can't remember who said it, but stuck with me, was that we have to know where we've been to know where we are to know where we're going. And that's why history's important and that's why right now for me, anyone that still is wearing a red hat, they're not somebody that I would even wanna have a discourse with. I'm not trying to change anybody's mind anymore. I'm not trying to do any of that. If you are that easily pulled into a culture of hate and bigotry and wish the extermination of different types of people, including gay people like me, and wanna rip the rights away from women — I'm a woman — and all the other things that they're trying to do, against the trans community and that type of thing, if your whole position is based around hate and exclusion, then I don't care if you listen to my music or not, or come to my shows. I don't care. I don't. And I never have."
"To The Gallows", the first single from OTEP's 2018 album "Kult 45", was described in a press release at the time as "a hyper-political outcry to the resistance to challenge Trump's falsehoods and hypocrisies." Shamaya branded the track "a song for the heretics/to resist the dictatorship." She rapped about Trump as a "traitor" as well as "a morally corrupt demagogue who's in lust with his daughter so he pays porn stars to dress like her."
OTEP will release a new studio album, "The God Slayer", on September 15 via Cleopatra. The follow-up to "Kult 45" offers up a mix of inspired original tracks as well as transformative takes on chart-topping hits from a variety of influences, including pop, rap and grunge, by such artists as Eminem, Billie Eilish, SLIPKNOT, Lil Peep and Olivia Rodrigo.
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